Army Corps of Hell
- Street Date:
- February 22nd, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Dick Ward
- Review Date:1
- March 4th, 2012
- Game Release Year:
- PS Vita
- Square Enix
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
'Army Corps of Hell' is the first title created by Entersphere, a development company created by former Nintendo project manager Motoi Okamoto. He worked on a bevy of titles over the years including 'Wii Fit,' 'Super Mario Sunshine,' 'Wii Play' and 'Pikmin.' It's that last game that proves to be the most important.
When Okamoto left Nintendo in 2008, he didn't go alone - members of the 'Pikmin' team came him to help launch Entersphere. In December of 2011, the company's first game, 'Army Corps of Hell,' launched in Japan and in mid-February it came to the U.S.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
I'm not a fan of every game that Square Enix publishes, but they've had some really brilliant releases that often get overlooked or forgotten because they aren't the kind of 'Final Fantasy' RPG we expect to see from the company. 'Bushido Blade' is still one of my favorite fighting games of all time, and 'Einhander' is an incredibly cool side-scrolling shooter for the PlayStation that blew my mind back in 1998.
Square doesn't often branch off into this kind of unknown territory, but when they do it's usually something that's worth playing, so when I was given the opportunity to review 'Army Corps of Hell,' I replied with an enthusiastic yes. Actually, for total actually I said "Definitely - that game looks insane... I'm in!"
The mechanics of the game are fairly simple. You play as the former king of Hell and it's your job to take back the land, bit by bit. To do so, you command armies of goblins to do your dirty work - never actually going hand-to-hand with any of the baddies yourself.
Your army surrounds you as you make your way through levels, and it only takes the press of a button to send them off to fight. Magi are selected with Square, Spearmen are chosen Triangle and the typical sword-and-board Soldiers are managed with Circle. At the press of the R button, one of your melee troops will run towards the enemy, or one of your mages will cast a spell. Holding the L button at the same time makes your melee troops deploy more quickly, while it gives the Magi a quicker move speed but slows their spell charge.
The variety of troops is interesting, but doesn't lend itself to the rock, paper, scissors kind of gameplay that it seems like. The Magi are definitely useful in spots that the others aren't - certain foes can't be attacked with your melee units unless your goblins are equipped with specific armor - but the Spearmen and Soldiers are interchangeable in most parts. Using the special attack of the Soldiers will yield more rewards in the long run, but in terms of combat not too terribly much changes.
This combat system, while not as deep as others, could easily be overcome by creative and interesting design choices throughout the rest of the game, but ultimately this doesn't happen. There are only a few unique monsters that you'll fight and boss fights are all surprisingly similar to one another, despite some drastic differences in appearance.
The largest failing of the game is in the level design. In the game 'Overlord,' a similar but ultimately much better title, you have a countryside to explore. It's limited in scope until you open up new areas, but you do have a bit of freedom to decide where you'll go. You can even relax a bit and kill some sheep if that's what you feel like doing.
In 'Army Corps of Hell,' you don't have anywhere to explore. To go to a stage, you select it from a level map. Once you get in, you're put onto a platform where you'll fight a wave of enemies. After you've killed them all off, you cross a bridge to another platform. This is how every stage of the game is set up - a series of connected platforms. Aside from the aesthetics, it's like killing all the monsters in one room, going to the next and killing the monsters there. When you know exactly what's going to happen around every turn, it takes a lot of the excitement out of it.
Some levels attempt to change things up by adding branching paths or keys that need collecting, but the end result is the same. Go platform to platform killing things until you get to the end. Now take into consideration that you'll need to run older levels again and again to farm materials for the best equipment.
Any hopes I had of a deep and exciting experience were dashed after just an hour or two of playing the game. The one word that sums up the whole of the experience is "repetitive." There just isn't much in the way of variety here.
There's nothing absolutely game breaking control wise like there is with some other Vita launch titles. The camera works just fine and there isn't anything hugely destructive about the way the game handles. I do have two small nitpicks though, and I feel like these will be echoed in reviews of future Vita games until developers figure out how to better utilize the functionality.
To use an item in 'Army Corps of Hell,' you simply touch the icon in the lower left-hand corner. While it seems like a really good way to go about things, it does end up causing problems - at least for me. When I'm pushing down the left analog stick in the heat of battle, my thumb ends up touching the screen and activating items. I don't end up wasting those items though, since you need to play a quick mini game to use them
That brings us to the second problem. After you decide that you want to use an item, a screen will pop up with instructions on what to do. You'll be told to either tap or flick the rear touch pad with both hands, which is both annoying and difficult. Shoehorning this feature into the game doesn't improve it at all, just takes away from what would otherwise have been a fairly issue free experience.
Of course, there are players who are willing to overlook control issues and lacking gameplay for a good solid story. Those players will want to steer clear of 'Army Corps of Hell,' which tells its story in a sort of quick motion-comic between levels. That's not a knock on the game though - for the style of experience Entersphere has created, a big story wouldn't have been the right choice.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
This 'Pikmin' like game that seems to take its design cues directly from the stuff rattling around in the head in the head of every 16-year old metal listening D&D nerd. In other words, it takes its design cues from me 13 years ago. There's fire and lightning and demons and dragons and plenty of the imagery you'd expect from a game called 'Army Corps of Hell.'
You can only blame the design team so much for the game's visuals. The stages are repetitive and get stale quickly, but it seems like the art design was limited by something beyond their control - technical limitations perhaps? Whatever the case and whoever the blame goes to, even the most badass boss feels tired against a setting that we've been playing in over and over again.
The enemy designs are bland, but it seems that some care was put into the goblins. They're designed to be sympathetic but also pitiful. You almost want to help them, but you'd rather kick them. In a game that's otherwise visually uninteresting, they're a nice touch.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
It should be obvious from watching trailers, but the music in this game is incredible. There's so much energy and so much variety that I ended up playing just to listen to the tunes provided by local Japanese metal bands.
I've read countless times in reviews and previews that the game has a death metal soundtrack, and while there are death metal songs in the game, that's not a complete story. Songs range from the aforementioned death metal to black metal and plenty of to lighten things up along the way. It's a really fun soundtrack with a good deal of variety. I'll definitely be looking up a few of these bands in the near future.
The sound effects in the game are, for the most part, unremarkable. The one thing that stands out though, is the constant noise from your goblins. Every time they're commanded to do something, they make annoying, high pitched noises that I got sick of very quickly. Were it not for the killer soundtrack, it would be hard to deal with.
I think it's safe to be said for any game where you need to grind out levels for gear or experience that when you've completed the game, you're going to be done with it. If the level design, story or enemies were more varied I could see wanting to dive in again, but as it stands I just can't see doing it.
There is a multiplayer mode in the game where you team up with friends to play cooperatively, but you can't use it online. The 'Army Corps of Hell' multiplayer operates ad-hoc only, which means you have to be in the same room as your friends to play it.
'Army Corps of Hell' isn't a terrible game, and I did have fun with it for a few hours, but I just can't see recommending it. If this were a $10-$15 downloadable title I would say it's worth taking a chance on, but as a $39 full-release title it just doesn't hold up. Unless you're a diehard fan of the game type or you want to support a new IP that takes a chance, I wouldn't suggest buying 'Army Corps of Hell.' If the soundtrack is ever made available though, that's a day one purchase.
- Available as physical copy or download
- Download size: 625 MB
- PSN Price: $34.99
- 1Q HD
- Online Co-op
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